Congrats, telcos! Consumers trust you: now what?

Image credit: Olivier Le Moal /

Last month Openet published results of a survey of 1,500 consumers, carried out by Sapio Research, which asked the question, “Who do you trust to provide digital services?” The answers were fairly clear – 92% would trust their mobile operators to provide digital services. In fact, 56% trust their mobile operators more than OTTs. Of this figure 54% would prefer to deal with their mobile operator direct for digital entertainment services, like music and video. The main reason for this trust: 68% of consumers said, “my mobile operator protects my personal data”.

This is significant. For the last few years, mobile operators have been planning for digital transformation projects in light of falling traditional telecoms revenue from voice and data. There also has been the fear of the ‘Uber effect’, where an OTT could appear out of nowhere, offer free voice and data services and leave the mobile operators as wholesale connectivity providers.

It turns out that consumers actually do want to buy digital services from their mobile operators. Facebook ‘Datagate’ has had a knock-on effect to many OTTs companies as people are unsure what’s happening to their data. For mobile operators, including those who have in some cases tried valiantly to be like the OTTs (a bit like watching your dad dancing a wedding), the irony is that they can succeed in the digital services market by not being like the OTTs. Instead they can become digital service providers, who will respect their customers and safeguard their customers’ personal data. Just look at the success of Orange Bank in France. People trust Orange enough to sign up with them for banking services. Would you trust Facebook Bank? I wouldn’t.

But looking at how people engage with and purchase digital services, and then having a look at operators’ current BSS stack, highlights the changes that operators are making. They need to change their BSS in order for them to build on the consumer trust that they already have and start selling a wide range of digital services. But as my colleague Paul Saunders explained in a recent Openet blog they need to take a pragmatic approach and ensure that it works. The opportunity is there. The opportunity to screw it up is also there.

When selling digital services, operators need to provide the digital payment capabilities and processes that people are used to. This means dealing with an app. But the big challenge operators have is getting people to use their apps. They can offer free data or access to content in return for customers registering and using their app. An aside here is that in the consumer survey, people said that they’d trust mobile operators to deliver digital services – as long as they’re transparent. In other words: be upfront and tell customers that you’ll not sell their personal data.

Once operators have customers using their app, they can use this to upsell a range of services. Ideally these are personalized and relevant (bearing in mind, what is relevant real-time marketing to one person could be creepy and intrusive to another). People buy digital services and expect them to work immediately. So when buying a digital service from their operator, a customer could tap to purchase from a pre-loaded credit or debit card registered with their account. They could also debit the purchase price from their prepaid balance, or even have the charge added to their bill.

But what about security? People don’t have the time to go digging through their pockets or purse to get their card and type in card security codes. But the security process in buying digital services is key to guard against fraud.

Fingerprint ID features on phones can work. But there are other options an operator can build into their apps, like facial recognition or voice recognition as a verification step during the purchase process. As there will be third-party content partners working with the operators to deliver digital services, a real-time audit trail is needed to ensure that any content delivered is paid for.

The obvious exception to this is when the customer wants it added to their monthly bill – but even then security measures need to be place and real-time revenue assurance and risk needs to be continuously monitored. If someone has racked up a €500 bill watching premium content and downloading games and doesn’t pay their bill, the content companies still want to be paid. The operator usually carries the risk and this needs to be managed.

For digital services, people want easy and secure ways to pay for digital services from an app or chatbot. This is the front end of a payment process that is built on real-time charging system that can manage settlement and revenue for all parties in the digital value chain.

We’ve come a long way from billing.

APIsWritten by Jon Ross, COO of Openet

Jon will be presenting on the Openet Webinar: Consumer trust and the mobile opportunity. Click here to register

Jon will also be discussing consumer trust and mobile operators at GSMA Mobile 360 Digital Societies event in Bangkok in September

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